News Round-Up:

--Alcatel-Lucent Trumpets Work on Vodafone Portugal's Mediaroom-Powered IPTV Service
--Amino IPTV Set-Top Boxes Selected by Tele2 Netherlands
--BBC Switch Revamps its Web Portal
--beActive Launches Multiplatform Thriller, Featuring Social and AR Elements
--Blockbuster in VOD Alliance with Suddenlink and Mediacom
--Epix Launches Initiative to Create Largest Online Movie Catalog
--Five, UEFA, Livestation Launch Europa League iPhone/iPod touch App
--HBO Launches "HBO Imagine" Interactive Video Experience
--Hillcrest Labs Launches New Products for OEM's
--Hulu Launches Social TV Apps for Facebook Users, "Continuous Play" Feature
--Inverto Supporting HbbTV
--IP Vision in Over-the-Top Deal with Disney for FetchTV
--MTV Releases Usage Stats for VMA Interactive Enhancements
--SBS Launches Avatar-Driven Interactive TV Show
--Ex-Bebo Chief, Joanna Shields, Tapped for New Social TV Venture
--Telecom New Zealand to Offer Customers TiVo DVR's
--Time Warner's Bewkes Dismisses Content Providers' TV Everywhere Complaints
--UFC Teams with MobiTV on iPhone/iPod touch App
--Ustream Launches Mobile Streaming App for Android
--ZillionTV to Target Consumers Directly, Pushes Back Launch to 2H 2010

The [itvt] editorial team is currently traveling in the UK, and, because of time constraints, we are covering a number of this issue's news stories in round-up/summary form. We anticipate some additional interruption of our regular news publishing schedule in the coming days, so we apologize in advance for any inconvenience to our readers. Here is the round-up:

  • Alcatel-Lucent is trumpeting its role in developing Vodafone Portugal's new Microsoft Mediaroom-powered IPTV service, Vodafone Casa TV. The service, which Alcatel-Lucent designed, integrated and deployed, offers VOD, catch-up TV, and a number of interactive TV applications, including an app called "SelfCare."
  • Cambridge, UK-based IPTV set-top box vendor, Amino Communications, has announced that Tele2 Netherlands has tapped it to provide it with MPEG-4 IPTV set-tops.
  • BBC Switch, a BBC brand devoted to multiplatform content for teenagers, has revamped its portal. The BBC's description of the site's new features is available here.
  • beActive, the Portuguese company behind Web series, "Sofia's Diary" and "Flatmates," is launching a multiplatform thriller, entitled "Final Punishment," that incorporates social media and an alternate reality game.
  • Video rental company, Blockbuster, has announced a strategic alliance with top-10 cable MSO's, Suddenlink and Mediacom. Initially, Blockbuster says, the deal will see it working with Suddenlink and Mediacom to "broaden the appeal and recognition of each MSO's video-on-demand movie service, rebranding key aspects of their service under the Blockbuster brand...In a later phase of cooperation," the company continues, "Blockbuster, Suddenlink and Mediacom, in conjunction with each cable company's VOD provider, Avail-TVN, intend to further enhance their  respective video offering through the inclusion of Blockbuster's multichannel capabilities. This," the company says, "is likely to include cooperation with Blockbuster's by-mail, vending, in-store and digital channels so that consumers looking for a movie that may not be available on-demand can instead search among Blockbuster's entire Blu-ray and DVD library."
  • Epix--a multiplatform subscription-based premium programming service which is a joint venture between Viacom, its Paramount Pictures arm, MGM and Lionsgate and which will have exclusive access to Paramount, Paramount Vantage MTV and Nickelodeon movies released theatrically on or after January 1st, 2008, and to MGM, United Artists and Lionsgate titles released theatrically on or after January 1st, 2009 (note: the company has announced one carriage deal to date: with Verizon--see the article published on itvt.com, July 29th)--has announced an initiative called "Epix Megaplex," which it describes as "an unprecedented push to create the largest and most in-depth catalog of movies continuously available online."
  • UK terrestrial broadcaster, Five, has teamed with UEFA and Livestation to launch an iPhone/iPod touch app that allows users to watch Europa League matches shown live on Five, as well as on-demand highlights that are made available a few hours after the end of the live broadcast. According to Livestation, the app, which is priced at £3.99, will provide access to all the games up to the May 12th final.
  • HBO has tapped BBDO and The Barbarian Group to create an interactive video promotion, dubbed HBO Imagine. More information is available here.
  • Hillcrest Labs has announced two new products intended to help software and hardware developers easily create applications and products that incorporate the company's Freespace in-air pointing and motion control technology. The new products are the libfreespace open source library and the Freespace Reference Kit Version 3.1, which Hillcrest Labs claims together provide "all the hardware and software engineers need to incorporate motion control."
  • Hulu, the broadband video service co-owned by Fox, NBC and Disney-ABC, has launched "Hulu: Watch Now" social TV apps for Facebook users, and is also scheduling social viewing events for the fall premieres of a number of network shows. In addition, it has launched a new feature called "Continuous Play."
  • Inverto Digital Labs has announced that it is becoming a supporting member of the HbbTV standard, and that its retail HD+ hybrid set-top box platform, Scena 6, which will incorporate a CE-HTML browser from Pleyo, will support the standard.
  • IP Vision, a company whose shareholders include set-top box vendor Netgem, has announced a deal with Disney-ABC-ESPN Television that will see it offering the latter's programming on-demand on its FetchTV over-the-top TV platform, which is based on a broadband-connected Freeview+ box called the FetchTV SmartBox. New movies will be priced at £3.49 for 24 hours and library movies at £1.99.
  • MTV has announced usage statistics for the various interactive and new media enhancements it offered to complement its broadcast of the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards (see the article published on itvt.com, September 14th).
  • European broadcaster, SBS, has launched an avatar-driven, mobile phone-controlled interactive TV pilot, dubbed "Twinners Music on TV." The show is currently available on Denmark's Channels 4 and 5. "Instead of a remote control, your cell phone interacts with a virtual you (so-called avatar) on TV," the press release announcing the pilot states. "During the live TV shows you can chat, dance, visit cool places and listen to indie music played by virtual DJ's."
  • Shine Group CEO, Elisabeth Murdoch, has teamed with ex-Bebo CEO (and interactive TV industry veteran), Joanna Shields, to form a new company that they are billing as "fusing the traditional genre of television production with the reach, power and engagement of social media." Shields will serve as CEO of the new company, which will operate under the Shine Group umbrella.
  • Telecom New Zealand has announced a deal with Hybrid Television Services, the exclusive licensee of TiVo products in Australia and New Zealand, that will allow it to sell TiVo DVR's to its customers starting in November. In order to encourage usage of the various over-the-top services to which TiVo provides access, including movies, TV shows, games and informational services, Telecom New Zealand plans to provide its TiVo customers with unmetered broadband access.
  • Time Warner chairman and CEO, Jeff Bewkes, has dismissed the complaints of content providers who want more money if their TV shows are watched online as part of the TV Everywhere initiative. "[The content providers are] not the ones who are going to the effort and expense of making this possible," he told attendees at the Goldman Sachs media conference last week. "The ones that are making this possible are the distributors--the telcos, the satellite companies, the cable companies."
  • The UFC has teamed with MobiTV on an Ultimate Fighting Championship iPhone/iPod touch app. The app, which is available in the Apple App store for $0.99, features live pay-per-view content and in-app purchasing of live events, as well as exclusive VOD stories, interviews, breaking news highlights, weigh-ins, Octagon Girl bios, and a schedule of upcoming UFC events.
  • Ustream has launched a mobile streaming application for Google's Android platform that allows users to broadcast video directly from their phones. The app offers various social features, including Twitter integration.
  • Studio-backed broadband TV service, ZillionTV, has announced an "expanded distribution strategy" that will see it trialing a direct-to-consumer offering and attempting to get its platform embedded in CE devices. The company says that it will "continue to pursue partnerships with its primary distribution channel of Internet Service Providers, focusing efforts specifically on Communications Service Providers (CSP's)." The company has also pushed back the launch of its service until the second half of 2010.